Two rich days of solo travel in Halifax August 10, 2023

by Kathryn Toure

In this travel letter about two days in Halifax, I share about the roles of Viola Desmond and Carrie Best in the fight for civil rights in Canada, and about Pearleen Oliver who fought for Black nurses to be accepted into nursing schools in Canada. I describe my visits to the Black Cultural Centre and the former city of Africville, both of which are well worth visiting. I mention Faith Nolan, a Canadian folk and jazz singer-songwriter of mixed African, Mi’kmaw, and Irish heritage who works to prevent the erasure of Black experiences and contributions in Canada.

I was curious about a lit-up tree I saw one evening in a public square near the small hotel where I was staying. I learned through conversations and readings that the Mi’kmaq of Halifax had protested until the statue of Cornwallis (former Governor of Novia Scotia, 1749 to 1752) was removed in 2018, the tree put in its place, and the park renamed Peace and Friendship Park. I went on to learn about the Peace and Friendship Treaties signed in the 1700s between the British and representatives of the Mi’kmaw and other indigenous nations. The treaties are about “peaceful coexistence and fostering long-term relationships.” They are a part of “treaty education” in Canada and are in force and effect today. The Mi’kmaw Native Friendship Centre in Halifax is part of the national friendship centre movement in Canada. The centre saves and changes lives and addresses the impact of colonization on the Mi’kmaw people.

A last stop in Halifax was to the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21. Between 1928 and 1971, over one million people entered Canada by boat through Pier 21, a gateway to the country. At the gift and bookstore there, I picked up the book “Out of the Depths” by Isabelle Knockwood and read it on my home to Nairobi.

The book was a way for the author to heal from her experience at the Indian Residential School at Shubenacadie, Novia Scotia, where nothing was taught about Native philosophy, and the children were cut from their spirituality and land (p. 57). She attended the school from the age of five, from 1936 to 1947. The federally funded Aboriginal Healing Foundation, established in 1966, was mandated to address the “legacy of abuse” resulting from the residential school system. It was a hard book to read, but it is so necessary to understand and face legacies of the past to institute reparations and create more inclusive futures.

Two days of solo exploration can only highlight a small part of a rich city. But I hope this letter piques curiosity and provides insight, whether or not you will be visiting Halifax in the coming months or years. I enjoy writing and sharing travel letters as a way to reflect on place, people and his/her/ourstory and connect with others. And am open to learning more and welcome all critiques.

Download the full travel letter pdf

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